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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Worldwide phenomenon street vendors

Worldwide phenomenon street vendors


IT’S a worldwide phenomenon and has been for centuries. It’s growing and spreading every year because it provides low cost and convenient shopping and eating and a lifesaving small income for millions.

They are the street vendors and you’ll find them, many women, in the cities and capitals of the world, especially Asia.

Street food is consumed each day by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.

In Bangkok 20,000 street food vendors provide city residents with an estimated 40 percent of their overall energy intake.

As well as cheap, street foods can be nutritious with a Calcutta survey finding the average meal contained about 30 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat and 180 grams of carbohydrates.

Around the world a growing number of the informal workforce operates on the city streets, sidewalks, or other public places, most of them illegally without licences and protection.

Most are one-person operations that use unpaid family labour on an as-needed basis from covered stalls or squatting on the ground displaying their merchandise.

In the developing world millions of poorer people who cannot afford to buy elsewhere depend on the low priced goods and food that are what the street vendors provide.

The street vendors are in their tens of millions worldwide.

Brazil and Mexico are said to have at least a million while India has more than three million although recent research suggests this may in fact be closer to 10 million.

In another study of nine African and Asian countries street vending accounted for between 73 and 99 percent of total employment in trade and for up to 90 percent of total GDP from trade.

In Cambodia the number of street vendors increased during periods of economic boom and crises and around 80 percent of GDP and 95 percent of employment is said to come from the “informal” sector which is heavily dominated by women who work up to 13 hours a day to keep food on the table for themselves and their families.

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